Some 95% of payments to eligible applicants under the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) schemes were made to farmers in the North by the end of December.

According to minister for agriculture Michelle O’Neill payments totalling £192.4m were issued.

The Minister went on to say this year’s payments had equalled last year’s Single Farm Payments record.

She also said that over 1,700 inspected claims had been paid in December, the largest number ever processed by this time of year.

O’Neill said that this has been made possible by the greater number of applicants who have applied online and by the commitment and diligence of Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) staff who are intent on making sure that as many farmers as possible receive their payments as early as possible.

“95% of eligible claims have been finalised for payment in December, including over 1,700 which had been subject to inspection,” she said.

This is, by far, the largest number of inspections my Department has ever processed in December.

The Minister also emphasised that the department would continue to assist those who had not yet been paid.

Referring to the introduction of the new CAP payments this year, the Minister said that she is particularly pleased that the department has equalled its record 2014 performance during a period of great transition and despite the challenges which CAP reform has presented for farmers.

The CAP schemes being paid are the Basic Payment and the Greening Payment and the department said that where a successful application for the Young Farmers’ Payment has been confirmed, this has also been paid.

The payment issued incorporates deductions made under the financial discipline mechanism to provide funds for the 2016 EU Agricultural Crisis Reserve, it stated.

The minister reiterated the benefits of the CAP payments online application process, saying the department has worked closely with farming representatives to encourage farmers to use the online application system, which avoids queues, speeds up the claim processing system and contributes to more payments being issued earlier.

I would once again strongly encourage farmers to go online themselves or to ask their agent or form filler to do so.

“It is the most effective way to avoid mistakes, particularly for those farmers who will potentially have positive greening requirements to meet.

“The online form will provide you with indications of these requirements and what you need to do to meet them, which the paper version cannot,” she said.

In the Republic, advance payments under the Basic Payment Scheme and Greening Payment began issuing on 16 October 2015.

The Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney said that this is the earliest that payments can commence under the governing EU Regulations.

“Ireland is among the earliest to pay the BPS in the European Union and to date, of the approximately 122,265 eligible applicants, over 119,000 farmers have received payments totalling €1.05 billion,” he said.